Battle at Bighorn a Battle to Stay Awake
The network, the golfers and an unending array of commercials didnt leave anything positive to say. The one thing that can be taken from this format is ' dont try it again. At least not under the Monday night conditions.
It was embarrassing to watch. The two best men and the two best women team up and you could expect at least a few electrifying moments. It was evident that all four tried, but it just didnt come off. I read Tuesday morning that the winds were high. And the greens rock-hard. The format was different. So, no ones going to shoot 65. But that nonsense ' puh-leeze!
To begin with, lets pinpoint where to start the blame ' the network. The players were already on the first green when ABCs telecast came on the air. Didnt that seem strange? Worse yet, there was no replays of the drives or approach shots. All we saw was Tiger Woods off the green and David Duval with a long putt. Oh ' it ended with a bogey for both. That, unfortunately, was standard fare for the evening.
Now, point No. 2 ' several times later in the telecast, we either didnt see a players shot or got a peek just as he/she was beginning to hit. A long putt by Woods. A decent bunker shot by Karrie Webb. There were only two balls in play and one match, so you would expect to see all the shots. Uh-uh.
Which brings up the teeth-grating commercials. It looked like a never-ending attempt to peddle sales items, interrupted by a little golf. Looking back this morning, I cant remember a single one. Oh yeah ' Tiger driving the vehicle in a particularly silly commercial, the one where a tornado hits in a 15-foot area, vehicles are tossed around, and when it finally passes, Woods is in a different drivers seat.
When the commercials werent going on ad nauseum, the interviews were. Judy Rankin, normally a terrific questioner, must have been asked to get something from Duval about the British Open title. The interview came off particularly strained. Duval did his best, but the question was vague ' something about how the week has been ' and the interview was conducted en route from tee to green after Duval plunked one in the sand.
Then, to compound the folly, they blew Webbs bunker shot. This was not for a commercial, which I guess would have been a little more understandable. It was because of Rankins attempt to get something of interest out of Duval, his futile attempt to cooperate, and then the banter between Curtis Strange and Mike Tirico.
Some of the putts were absolutely pathetic, and Im not sure if that should be blamed on the putt-ee, or on the fact that she/he was in a difficult position and the grounds crew had over-cooked the greens speed. Annika Sorenstam and Webb each stroked putts which passed the cup and picked up speed, finally dying about 60 feet past the pin. Each putt was above the hole. The putts were stroked too hard, granted, but neither woman is that bad. Then a 60-foot putt by Duval ended up eight feet short. That time, there were no excuses.
I fell asleep after the 17th hole, so I cant judge the remainder of play. But here is an amateurs assessment:
Four professionals - two women and two men - meet for a golf match and come away looking like country club hackers. Was it the lack of course knowledge? The wind? The firmess of the greens? You know all four golfers were trying as hard as they could. Somehow, though, the pratfalls got worse and worse. After awhile, it got comical, watching the games four best players swat at the ball in futility.
That was all excusable, though, because they are still human. What is NOT excusable is the sloppy production values. Too many commercials were sold, and that is because the network bid too high a price for the match. Every shot should have been shown ' after all, they do it in the Skins Game, and that doesnt hold anywhere near the potential interest of a mixed foursome such as this.
What evolved was an embarrassment. That is a real shame.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.